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Putting Apps to Work

Alex Spencer

The first wave of early-stage mobilisation has hit the enterprise, and the growth rates continue to escalate. Industry analyst group IDC predicts the worldwide mobile worker population to hit 1.19bn in 2013, accounting for 34.9 per cent of the workforce.

With the right strategy in place, enterprises can empower mobile workers to quickly act on information by giving them seamless integration to business processes and corporate networks through mobile apps. But it's a question of having the right strategy and, with that in mind, here are the best practices to make enterprise app deployments successful.
Ensure all apps work on all devices and platforms.

Apps cannot just run on Windows Mobile or BlackBerry OS anymore - understand the volatility of mobility platforms, and watch for (more) dramatic shifts in popularity among devices and OSs. A cost-effective mobility strategy needs to support building an app once, so it will run on all supported device types.

Make app security a top priority

Security measures should include general device security such as strong passwords on the device and device encryption. For in-house development, ensure that apps maintain the highest levels of security available for each platform such as encrypting the app data store, preventing unencrypted backups to cloud services and app specific password entry.
Set up self-serve options

There is no longer just one line of business app, as field service, marketing, sales and management teams all use different apps for line-of-business tasks. Give users the ability to take care of some tasks themselves with an in-house app center. To help employees sort through the thousands of available business and workflow apps, give them the ability to choose from IT’s pre-screened list of 'approved' choices.
Manage the mobile app update process

Your business will need to have the ability to manage the update process in a way that doesn’t cost your organisation a lot of time and doesn’t raise TCO. To do that, IT will need to address the cross-platform challenge and manage app refreshes as well as mobile OS updates. One option is to take advantage of a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that allows IT to send over-the-air updates quickly and easily to users, reducing manual management tasks for IT staff.

Configure user profiles and provisioning

An app may have several settings that need to be configured for the app to operate. Use over-the-air tools, such as integration with MDM solutions that provide libraries to establish additional user access settings. With these tools in place, enterprises can create lockable configuration and certificate-based security policy enforcement that is consistent with enterprise IT standards.
Take advantage of unique functions

End users expect mobile apps to be slick, well designed, and easy-to-use. Put extra efforts into how you build a user interface and the workflow for each app, as doing so will lower call volume to the helpdesk and increase end user acceptance.

Have a lifecycle plan
Understand the software development life cycle. Beginning with conception of an app, your organisation needs to gather requirements, develop, test, validate, release, update (multiple times), and then, finally, sunset the app and maybe even the device. Consolidate these efforts into a concise working model that manages each stage of the process and can be streamlined throughout the organisation.
Constantly gather feedback

While you can’t anticipate the needs of users, consider their ideas and implement in phases. To best serve the mobile workforce, provide a consistent forum for feedback throughout each stage of the software development lifecycle. Most importantly, build a communication channel or feedback mechanism to get the information from users to developers.
Organise a Mobility Centre of Excellence

Mobility is no longer an operation or line of business problem that can be handled in a silo. Operations managers, HR, sales, customer service departments and end users all have interests now. Mobility has to be viewed as a strategic direction throughout the enterprise. A Mobility Centre of Excellence can distribute ideas horizontally across the enterprise and align initiatives with workflows.
Choose between off-the-shelf and homemade

In the buy-or-build decision, weigh initial development costs, maintenance and updates. First, ask yourself: Is the app within our core competence? Depending on the needed functionality, decide if it is worth the investment. At this stage in mobility, many sophisticated workflow and business apps are available from third-party developers, and integrating those may prove to be far less expensive than building a custom app.

Finally, don’t be left without a mobile strategy for the enterprise. If you devise a plan that addresses the key issues of app deployment, cross-platform management, and information security, your mobile workforce will stay connected and productive in 2012. 

 

Alison Welch George is senior manager, product marketing, enterprise managed mobility, Sybase

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